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Belle Isle Aquarium needs $500,000

Get cash or exhibit closes, activists told

February 25, 2005


Supporters trying to save the Belle Isle Aquarium have until next Thursday to raise $500,000 to keep the 101-year-old exhibit open.

Kathleen Alan, president of the Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium, said Detroit Zoo Director Ron Kagan told the activists Thursday morning that if they can't raise the money, the city will close the exhibit soon after.

The city will lay off 686 workers by next Thursday to deal with a mounting fiscal crisis. Fourteen are zoo and aquarium employees. The zoo oversees the aquarium.

Kagan said the aquarium will close to the public within the month. He expects to announce a specific date in the next few days.

In the meantime, he said the zoo is transferring the 4,000 or so creatures in the exhibit to other zoos and aquariums.

"The issue is that we simply have no money," Kagan said. The aquarium costs about $700,000 to operate, he said.

On Wednesday, the Detroit City Council passed measures that urged the city to keep the exhibit open for two months while supporters looked for funding and that ordered the zoo to stop sending away the critters.

But on Thursday, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, the agency that accredits zoos, issued a statement that said the council's actions could negatively affect the zoo's accreditation because the zoo director must have complete authority over the animals. If the zoo loses its accreditation, it could become ineligible for funding or programs.

The aquarium buffs remain undaunted by the deadline.

"We're going to keep fighting," Alan said.

For information or to make a pledge, visit or send checks, payable to the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium, to P.O. Box 20564, Ferndale 48220.

Contact MARISOL BELLO at 313-222-6678 or